You’ve heard about the 3D scanner for scanning the human body, but you don’t know what it’s for. Or maybe you’re already using one and you want to know more about the different options you have, then this article is for you.

The first step is scanning your body part, this gives you the raw 3D model. There are infinite ways to process this raw scan according to your needs and applications:

  • Rotating the mesh or aligning it in a specific direction;
  • Cleaning the artefacts and repairing the mesh errors;
  • Clipping the unwanted parts of the mesh;
  • Remeshing and simplifying the mesh;
  • Filling the holes and smoothing;
  • ….

Whether you decide to process the raw scan or not, you‘ll have your 3D model in ‘x’ format ( we will go over the differents 3D file formats in a future article). Now, there are many ways to use the 3D model depending on your application.


The most basic way to use your 3D body scan is as-is, like a personalized avatar in online games. In the near future, you‘ll also be able to use these 3D models in augmented and virtual reality for shopping, meetings, etc.


Manual measurements have been shown as time consuming and subject to error. Recent advancements in 3D scanner technology however, are making them more accurate (1mm and less depending on the technology used) as well as cheaper. For these reasons, 3D anthropometric measurements are a robust alternative to manual measurement. Moreover, 3D models give access to more detail,  allowing for more complete and reliable anthropometric measurements, e.g. body shape, segment volume or surface area.

Fitting/Custom retail

With a return rate of more than 20% for online retailers, big hopes are put in 3D human body scans to decrease this number. For now, 3D body scans are mostly used to give recommendations on the best size/fit for someone according to the brand and the country. Some brands have also begun to look at virtual fit rooms, where the customers could use their avatar to try on products, or change the model and color. We can expect that these virtual fit rooms, combined with virtual/augmented reality, will be the future of online shopping.

For custom retail, 3D body scans are used by tailors to assist designers craft a tailored suits based on precise measurements. It’s meant to standardize the measurement process and avoid inconsistencies of tailor-determined measurements.

Sports equipment/medical devices

Besides clothing or footwear, some accessories and equipment can be customized with 3D scanning. It’s possible to directly design custom sports equipment (e.g. footwear, helmets, gloves, …) or medical devices (e.g., orthosis and braces) on the 3D model of a body part. This technique allows a perfect fit and improved compliance and comfort, as well as decrease bulkiness and movement of the equipment. Some software allows you to test various aspects: deformation, contact pressure, solidity, weak area, etc. with virtual simulation… 


The recent development in 3D printing has also led to the use of 3D body scans to make prosthetics, allowing them to seem more and more like the real thing.

References: (avatar picture) (CCM picture) (casque velo picture) (virtual fit room picture) (AFO model picture)


Koepke, N; Zwahlen, M; Wells, J C and Bender, N (2017) Comparison of 3D laser-based photonic scans and manual anthropometric measurements of body size and shape in a validation study of 123 young Swiss men. PeerJ.

Cau N, Corna S, Aspesi V, Postiglione F, Galli M, et al. (2016) Circumferential versus Hand-held Laser Scanner Method for the Evaluation of Lower Limb Volumes in Normal-weight and Obese Subjects. J Nov Physiother. 6: 303.

Baptiste Pierrat, Jérôme Molimard, Laurent Navarro, Stéphane Avril & Paul Calmels (2015) Evaluation of the mechanical efficiency of knee braces based on computational modeling. Computer Methods in Biomechanics and Biomedical Engineering, 18:6, 646-661, DOI: 10.1080/10255842.2013.832227

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